Can you sense the emotions of those around you? Do you feel what they are feeling as if their feelings are yours? Are you able to see their world through their eyes and mirror them back their own perspective? Are people drawn to you because you help them to give voice to their emotional and inner life? All of this sounds like EMPATHY.
I found it always challenging spending too much time in big crowds or around negative or aggressive people. As an empath, I could feel what they are experiencing emotionally and this was often very confusing. I did not feel it always consciously but more on a subtle level, often without even realising that I am feeling their emotions and what is going on within them.
As I consequence, I often absorbed too much which lead at first to an overwhelmed mental state and manifested later as a physical illness. I was carrying a lot of the emotional baggage of other people and sometimes, I also imbibed other people’s patterns by not having clear energetic boundaries.
From very early age, I noticed that people, even strangers had the tendency to talk about their problems and concerns with me, but sadly also to unload their frustration, anger, or other negative emotions. They felt a big relief afterwards and I felt drained.
Because at that point I did not know how to establish healthy boundaries I was very vulnerable to negative energies. One of the worst experiences for me was to work in a big open plan office in Central London. I could literally feel all the inner pain, sadness bitterness and dissatisfaction from those who were working there.
This experience was a turning point.
Sensing Emotions and Energy is a gift!
I knew that even though it is my nature to be an empath, I can learn to take more care of myself and establish clearer boundaries.
One way to do this is not to take everything other people do or say to heart.
An example of Buddha.
It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”
The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead, he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”
The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me because I bought the gift.”
The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”
With time, I started to realise that what people say or do has not that much to do with me but with them. Their words always show who they and where they are currently at on their journey. They are their projections, stories, beliefs and assumptions.
I may be the trigger of their anger, inner pain and suppressed emotions which they let out on me, but it was already there.
When I understood that it was only their projection and I could choose to use it as I wish I was able to gain greater love and wisdom and to develop compassion for all people I came in contact with as I realised that many of them suffered quietly. Those who behaved aggressively for example simply showed me the world they lived in, a world full of dissatisfaction, anger or fear. They were uncontrolled and impulsive in their actions because they were not mindful and were governed by their senses. I could see that the way they were treating others was the way how they were treating themselves emotionally on a day to day basis.
Ultimately they have been in my reality for a reason and served my own awakening and growth. I clearly had to learn how to set healthy boundaries.
Even though it is necessary to take strong action at times in order to set clear boundaries it is crucial not to hold grudges. On the surface level, I might need to be very firm and assertive at times or even raise my voice if this is necessary because this might be the only way the other person will understand it, but inside I feel only compassion for this person.
If I intentionally harm or hurt another being, I harm not only the other person but also myself. Buddha referred to such behaviour as “ignorance” or “delusion”, which means a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of reality.
10 Tips for Dealing With Challenging People
Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be ‘stuck’ with a challenging individual at work or even at home. Especially if you are an empath it’s easy to give them permission to ruin your day, but if you do so, it means that you give them the power to do it.
The following steps might be helpful. Simply use what works for you and leave the rest.
1. Keep a cool mind
Mindfulness Meditation or Insight meditation (Vipassana) can help you to be less reactive.
Insight meditation is nothing more mysterious than developing your ability to pay attention to your immediate experience. Mindfulness relies on an important characteristic of awareness: awareness by itself does not judge, resist, or cling to anything. By focusing on simply being aware, we learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual reactions and begin to have a friendlier and more compassionate relationship with our experience, with ourselves and with others.
A calm and quiet mind also helps you to make wise choices in life.
If you practice this meditation regularly you will definitely experience positive results. Even if you are able to stay calm and non-reactive 1 out of 10 when a challenging incident occurs, it is already a success. If you keep meditating, you will rewire your Neural Pathways and this will transform your life over time.
2. Learn to set boundaries
Many empaths and Highly sensitive people (HSP) have very thin boundaries.
Highly sensitive people respond strongly to external stimuli and become exhausted from taking in and processing these stimuli. They are born with a nervous system that may perceive, see, hear, smell or feel more than others. As adults, they may also think, reflect or notice more than others. The processing is largely unconscious or body-conscious. Highly Sensitive People grow up feeling overwhelmed, especially when loud music, crowds of people, or simply a busy day stresses them.
An empath has also the tendency to feel responsible for everyone and there is often a desire to please and help others. They often do so at the expense of their own health. When an empath is feeling overwhelmed, there is a good chance that he or she is not caring for her or his own needs. At such times, they need quiet time alone to recover.
In order to create healthy boundaries, you need to know at first yourself and your needs. Vipassana which is an awareness meditation can be very helpful as you learn to pay attention to your body’s physical sensations while interacting with others.
3. Mind your own business
Some people are simply the wrong match for you, so don’t waste your energy by trying to change or to please them. If a college at work or an annoying relative challenges you, try to be diplomatic and fair when you have to deal with them. For the rest of the time practice detachment and keep a healthy distance.
4. Seeing the bigger picture
A lot of friction and tension between people comes from misunderstanding and misinterpretation. When you feel offended by someone try to look at the situation from a different perspective.
When you avoid taking other people’s behaviours personally, you will become more objective and it will also help you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- My partner is sometimes so cold. It must not be easy to show emotions when you come from a family where people don’t express affection.
- My boss is very demanding today. It must not be easy for him to deal with all the pressure and the responsibility of managing a large team.
However being empathetic does not excuse unacceptable behaviour. The point is to be aware of the fact that people behave the way they behave because of their own issues.
When someone criticises you or gives you advice, connect to your inner self and find out if they want to help or hurt. It is the intention that counts not the words. Someone who feels miserable will always try to find faults in others. Don’t let their words and their unhappiness affect you as it is only the projection of what is going on inside them.
5. Choose your battles wisely
We can’t control other people’s behaviour, but we can control our responses to it.
Not all challenging people we face require direct confrontation about their behaviour. For example, if you have to spend a short period of time with a very dominant person and you can depersonalise his or her behaviour you will most probably save time and energy by avoiding a confrontation.
It doesn’t mean that you are passive. You can still have a different view on the situation. However, you consciously choose not to engage in conflict because you feel intuitive that it wouldn’t be beneficial. When you realise how powerful you are, you can take in any type of energy and transmute it into higher qualities such as love and compassion.
You have the power to decide if the situation is serious enough to confront it by thinking twice if the battle you would like to fight is truly worth it.
6. Separate the Person from the issue
We tend to take responses to the issues as personal attacks.
Every negotiation has two elements: people and problems. Separating the people from the problems means separating the relationship (personality) issues (e.g. perceptions, emotions, feelings and so on ) from the substantive issues (e.g. terms, facts dates, figures and so on ).
We are human beings and we perceive the actions and words of others differently. We then develop attachments to past experiences and memories and have therefore the tendency to react habitually and impulsive. Emotions, egos, feelings, past memories and so on become entangled in the substance of the problem. Therefore be soft on the person and firm on the issue. When we are soft on the person, people are more open to listening to what we have to say. Being firm on the issue demonstrates assertive behaviour and leadership qualities.
7. Be aware of the pattern with aggressive people
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” ~Paramhansa Yogananda.
Aggressive people like to place attention on you to make you feel inadequate and uncomfortable. They usually try to intimidate you by telling that there is something not all right with you while being quite arrogant about their own capabilities. The focus is always on what’s wrong instead of trying to find a constructive solution.
An aggressive communication style may reflect the poor emotional development and is usually linked to a desire to verbally abuse, blame, hurt others or exact revenge. Aggressive people often come across as sarcastic, abrupt, cold and sharp. Their tone also comes across as threatening in many cases. They will use sentences like, “You better get that done immediately”.
Aggressive people want to control and dominate. If you react by being defensive or frightened, you give the aggressor more power.
A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the challenging individual by asking questions.
Aggressor: ‘Your last report is absolutely useless’
Response: ‘Have you given me detailed instructions how to write it?’
Aggressor: ‘You are absolutely incompetent, I better do it myself’
Response: ‘If you would like me to continue to work here I would like you to treat me with respect and if you continue to treat me with disrespect, I will need to talk with the manager.‘
Keep your questions constructive.
Be firm on the outside with the aggressor but have compassion with him inside, because only a very disempowered and insecure person would bully or intimidate others.
“When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.” ~Tom Hiddleston.
Often bullies are victims themselves. Someone who is angry is someone who doesn’t know how to handle their suffering. They are the first victim of their suffering, and you are actually the second victim. A bully or a tyrant feels separate, unloved or unworthy. The main reason they attack or disempower others is that they are trying to feel better about themselves.
8. Energetic boundaries
Many empaths and highly sensitive people have an unbalanced third chakra (solar plexus chakra), and, for this reason, they can’t protect their energy.
Chakra is a Sanskrit word that translates into a turning wheel or disc. These energy centres are connected to main organs, endocrine glands, physiological functions, emotions and spiritual energy.
An unbalanced or blocked chakra can lead to physical, emotional or mental symptoms.
It is very easy for the chakras to get out of balance. In fact, your average day will often contain multiple occasions that will put your chakras out of balance.
Your solar plexus chakra is the bodyguard of your entire energy field.
It is associated with:
- Will, personal power
- Taking responsibility
- Making decisions
- Personal identity, personality
- Self-assurance, confidence
- Strength of character
- Setting healthy boundaries
If this chakra is unbalanced you will pick up other people’s negative thoughts, emotions and feelings.
The solar plexus is also the centre that holds fears. Many sensitive people feel often tense in this area because they tune in into collective fears and catastrophes.
Eight Signs of an unbalanced third chakra:
1. You see yourself as powerless and compare yourself constantly with others
2. A need to please everyone or a need to have things your own way
3. Extreme fear of failure and fear about the future
4. You are generally highly stressed and busy
5. You feel constantly tired
6. You are extremely judgmental, impatient and controlling
7. Trouble starting or following through on projects or lack of assertiveness are signs of a weak third chakra
8. Workaholics, highly goal oriented or competitive people or those that can’t rest or relax, have an overcharged third chakra
At the physical level, this chakra governs the liver, spleen, stomach, gall bladder and pancreas. We hold our fears and lack of confidence in this chakra. This energy centre governs the pancreas and when it is in balance you are able to give and receive nurturing on every level.
If you suffer from indigestion, reflux, heartburn or shallow breathing, you will benefit the third chakra healing techniques listed below.
How to Balance Your Third Chakra?
There are a number of ways to balance your third chakra.
1. Spend time in the sunlight
2. Certain Yoga poses can help loosen up blocked energy within chakras e.g (Navasana (Boat Pose), Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Leg Lifts), Warrior poses.
3. Using crystals is another way to help balance your third chakra. For example citrine, amber, yellow sapphire and yellow tourmaline.
4. Using following essential oils can also help to balance your 3rd chakra:
Rosemary, lavender, chamomile, yarrow, vetiver, petitgrain, peppermint, lemon, juniper, and marjoram.
The following meditation will help you to balance the 7 main energy centres.
9. Energy work and emotional clearing
Most of us have varying degrees of emotional trauma lingering in our energy field that lies below our conscious awareness. Everything is energy and everything is attracted by energy. Because this subtle energy is invisible many people are not aware of energy blocks or suppressed emotions. It takes courage to turn inward and to be brutally honest with yourself when it comes to investigating and experiencing any suppressed emotional pain.
Emotions are energy: E-motion = energy in motion. Energy is supposed to be in motion and to flow freely. Stagnation and energy blockages lead to diseases and suppressed emotions create imbalances in the mind body and spirit system. Energy blocks are also the source of many of the problems we experience in our relationships, careers, creative endeavours, and in our spiritual evolution.
The following program is designed to ease any emotional tension, clear energy blocks and suppressed emotions. It will help you to:
- Listen to your emotional guidance system
- Release trapped emotions
- Feel empowered and respond to your emotions with peace, balance and acceptance
- Transform emotions such as anger and jealousy into self-esteem and inner strength and compassion
10. Laughter is the Best Medicine – let the problems roll off your back
Humour is such a powerful tool and laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, tension, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster to bring your mind, body and spirit back into balance than a good laugh. Laughter relaxes the whole body, releases tension and stuck energy, lightens your burdens, connects you to others, strengthens your immune system, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
When appropriately used, humour can shine a light on the truth and neutralise or eliminate the negative behaviour.